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Gritty reaction of councillors to lack of winter resources

EAST Clare County councillors are up in arms over the lack of resources to ensure all regional roads are salted or gritted during extreme cold weather.
Confusion over the availability of an extra €100,000 to grit regional roads throughout East Clare prompted criticism from Councillor Pat Hayes at a Killaloe Electoral Area meeting last week.
Councillor Hayes expressed his frustration with the lack of a commitment from Clare County Council to grit all the regional roads in East Clare to prevent a repeat of having roads impassable, which occurred last Christmas during periods of sub-zero temperatures, hard frost and snow.
The Killanena councillor has now pledged to raise this issue again at the next county council meeting after expressing his disappointment over the lack of information concerning the number of regional roads that are included in the local authority’s Winter Maintenance Programme.
The Fianna Fáil councillor said he had received a commitment that an extra €100,000 for regional roads would be spent on the 2011 Winter Maintenance Programme from director of services, Nora Kaye earlier this year but it now seemed as if there was confusion among council officials about whether this money was already spent in 2010.
He stressed it was vital that the road linking Killanena with Gort in North-East Clare from Ballinahinch Cross was properly treated to ensure it could be accessed by local businesses and residents.
“Councillors made a number of submissions and observations concerning regional roads after last year’s cold spell. Legislation was also supposed to be changed to allow local communities to work on roads during periods of frost and snow.
“I don’t think there has been any major change. We don’t want to end up in a situation where people in local communities can’t move when there is a fall of snow. There isn’t much point in spending money on the Gort/Crusheen Bypass if people can’t access regional roads.
“Councillors haven’t seen the report on the Winter Maintenance Programme, which has been sent to the National Roads Authority (NRA). The council should be able to make up its mind on what strategic routes should be treated.
“We now seem to be getting the cold weather a month earlier this year and there doesn’t appear to be any major plan in place involving regional roads. I don’t want to be ringing council officials and engineers at weekends or over Christmas like last year to have a road gritted,” he said.
He was supported by Councillor Joe Cooney, who stressed that all regional roads should be gritted or salted and recalled that some routes were “treacherous” during the cold spell last year.
Councillor Cooney said people had a “lucky escape” from having accidents on roads a few days before Christmas. He also expressed his disappointment with the NRA, who seemed to be dragging their heels in relation to this issue.
Councillor Pat Burke claimed that Clare County Council only salted from Ennis to Cregg Cross outside Whitegate last year leaving one mile to the county boundary with Galway untouched, which caused major problems for motorists.
Councillor Cathal Crowe said some areas in South-East Clare were abandoned last year particularly crossroads and difficult areas in villages like Parteen and Meelick where gritting 100m “would have got communities out of trouble”.
Senior executive engineer, Séan Lenihan outlined that Clare County Council submitted its Winter Service Plan, which was being considered by the NRA, which hadn’t responded.
In the meantime, Mr Lenihan explained the council would only be treating only the routes that were treated last season and the N18 and noted in general priority was given to a motorway, followed by national primary, secondary and selected regional routes. It is envisaged that the amended strategy will be developed over the coming weeks.
“The council can’t treat all roads because it hasn’t the money. I passed on all the submissions made by members to the council and I also asked councillors to contact senior engineer, Tom Tiernan.
“Since January 2010, the NRA has full control over the distribution of salt to all councils. Additional salt storage facilities are under construction at Beechpark, Ennis thus doubling capacity.
“Localised grit deposits will be repeated in the event of a prolonged spell of frost and freezing conditions,” he said.
He told councillors the information he had received from Galway County Council indicated that they didn’t come down as far as the county boundary with East Clare and recalled Clare County Council actually went further past Whitegate village than the agreed route in the 2010 Winter Maintenance Programme.

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